While manufacturing behemoths such as DuPont, Mondelez, and Carpenter have innovated production lines in Greater Richmond, Virginia, new firms are continuing the tradition of innovating product development. Reshoring trends have only provided growth opportunities for the region’s manufacturing cluster.
Greater Richmond, Virginia’s manufacturers often rely on the latest technologies, from high-level computer-aided engineering and generative design to automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, and cloud-based storage and services. With manufacturing being a cornerstone of the Greater Richmond economy for decades, the available workforce is technology-savvy and knows how to work efficiently and safely in a manufacturing environment.
Investment to Innovate
Greater Richmond is home to many major businesses, including eight Fortune 500 and three Fortune 1000 company headquarters, which reflect the diversity of Richmond’s economy. Manufacturing is an important industrial sector of the region’s economy. For example, DuPont’s largest manufacturing facility in the world is in Greater Richmond.
However, the region is making room for new manufacturing companies that are sustainability savvy.
Canadian-based Cascades recently cranked up its upfitted Greater Richmond manufacturing facility to produce 100 percent-recycled containerboard. The firm is a global leader in the recovery and manufacturing of green packaging and hygiene products. With the addition of the company’s new containerboard plant in Hanover County, it expects an annual production capacity of 465,000 short tons of the lightweight, high-quality containerboard. The high-tech plant will strengthen the operational flexibility, geographic footprint, and competitiveness of Cascades’ containerboard platform. The project created 700 jobs in the region during the construction phase and will hire 180 permanent workers as production starts to ramp up.
We were impressed with all that Virginia has to offer, from access to a skilled workforce, support for high-quality manufacturers, and great transport links. Niels B. Christiansen, CEO, LEGO Group Across town, packaging disrupter TemperPack specializes in environmentally friendly materials for temperature sensitive products — replacing Styrofoam in shipping food and pharma products. The Henrico-based company recently acquired a maker of Green Cell Foam, which is a material made from U.S.-based corn.
“Everything we build is extremely sustainable in terms of how we get it, how we make it, and what the options are at the end of life,” says co-founder and Chief Product Officer James McGoff. TemperPack is now working with Marley Spoon, Martha Stewart’s meal kit company, by installing machines in their distribution facilities.
Danish toymaker the LEGO Group has a similar approach with building its new U.S. factory — and it won’t be made from its iconic bricks. In April, the LEGO Group broke ground on its $1 billion facility that will create 1,760 local jobs. When the LEGO Group finishes construction on the 1.7-million-square-foot operation, the carbon-neutral facility will feature on-site solar with the aim of LEED gold status.
LEGO Group selected Richmond because “we were impressed with all that Virginia has to offer, from access to a skilled workforce, support for high-quality manufacturers, and great transport links,” said Niels B. Christiansen, CEO of the LEGO Group.
The Richmond MSA has a total labor force of 725,000, with about 35,000 working for local manufacturers. New graduates from 22 four-year and two-year educational institutions help replenish the workforce pipeline every year, many of whom graduate with the skills they need to move into advanced manufacturing jobs, where they can further expand or refine their skills. In order to prepare a workforce for its new factory, The LEGO Group is leaning on the Community College Workforce Alliance for customized training. The alliance offers customizable contract training and other programs that target manufacturing processes, new technologies, quality improvement, safety, and OSHA compliance.
A major American manufacturer of household products, Church & Dwight invested $27 million and created 53 new jobs in Greater Richmond’s Chesterfield County — a decision made partially due to the region’s labor.
“We decided to reinvest in Chesterfield County because of the skilled and stable workforce within our existing manufacturing plant and access to the regional manufacturing workforce, as well as the collaborative relationship we’ve enjoyed with the state and local governments, community colleges, and manufacturing support organizations,” said Andrew Glowatsky, director of supply chain capabilities for the company.
Manufacturers are attracted to the Richmond region for several factors but primarily for our highly educated talent and the training pipeline we can offer. Jennifer Wakefield, President and CEO, Greater Richmond Partnership Virginia is dedicated to supporting its manufacturing industries. For example, the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) is an applied research center and not-for-profit public-private partnership that helps translate fundamental research conducted at universities to product development and commercialization in the private sector. And the Virginia Manufacturers Association works with members to develop workforce training and supply-chain solutions and is proactive with state government regarding legislative matters and decisions that impact manufacturing. The association also partners with area colleges for the Manufacturing Skills Institute, which provides relevant education, skills training, and certifications for new or current advanced manufacturing positions.
As the single point of contact in the Richmond market, the Greater Richmond Partnership proactively supports manufacturing businesses (and other industries) that are looking to locate or expand in the area. Its dedicated staff of experts assists companies with site selection analysis, workforce recruitment and training, market analysis, and other business intelligence and resources. “Manufacturers are attracted to the Richmond region for several factors but primarily for our highly educated talent and the training pipeline we can offer,” said Jennifer Wakefield, President and CEO of the Greater Richmond Partnership.
In May, Weidmüller USA, a provider of smart industrial connectivity products headquartered in Greater Richmond, broke ground on a $16.4 million engineering and manufacturing facility in Chesterfield County, which will create more than 100 new jobs. The new building will provide automation, smart connectivity, and green energy products. As part of the company’s “Made in America” commitment, the new facility will increase Weidmüller’s engineering and production footprint in the U.S. by 24,000 square feet, allowing the company to engineer and manufacture products closer to its customer base.
“We see great infrastructure, we see the education programs, universities and schools, and it just keeps getting better and better, which helps us a lot in attracting amazing talent,” said Christian Gläsel, Weidmüller’s chairman of the Supervisory Board. “Richmond has been our home for almost 50 years and has proven to be a superb location for our continued growth.”